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Tenants angry over new Orbit maintenance costs

ORBIT Housing Association has come under fire this week after tenants received letters informing them of hefty new charges for grounds maintenance.

The unexpected charge has added around £300 to some people’s bills and there is much resentment from residents, who have not been asked to pay for these services before.

Some tenants say they don’t actually have an outdoor or communal area that needs to be maintained and are puzzled as to why they are now being asked to pay for gardening.

Others are furious that they are being asked to pay a charge for maintaining an outdoor communal area, which is also used by non-Orbit tenants, while some claim that the outdoor areas near their properties are maintained by the council and not Orbit.

An online petition against the charge has been started, with more than 200 people already signing it.

Chris Pilkington, a resident of Stratford district who started the petition, said: “To me it looks like simple money making.

“Maintaining these communal outdoor areas is something Orbit have been doing for 20 years, but they’ve never charged before. If they are going to put up people’s charges I wish they could just be honest about where that money is being spent, for instance showing where costs were going up in other areas.

“It seems to be a way of them increasing their charges without looking like they are increasing them. I would like Orbit to think again about charging for these services.

“While I am not an Orbit tenant I have several friends who are. Residents have told me many times about Orbit wasting cash by simply bodging fixes rather than actually fixing them, as well as performing the same surveys repeatedly.

“Tenants I have spoken to feel very strongly that if Orbit didn’t waste so much money there would be no need for a service charge.

“The land they are trying to charge for has been in their care for a long time and they have suddenly decided to begin charging for a service that in many places is not even needed as residents actually care for much of the area themselves.”

Michelle Booth, an Orbit tenant in Stratford, said: “We’ve had this letter too. Looking out my window now I can see there’s an area with a few trees that isn’t very well looked after and behind the house there is a grass area which I’ve actually considered mowing myself so my son can play on it.

“I don’t know why they are now going to charge us to maintain these areas when they don’t appear to be doing much to look after them.

“There is a lot of social housing on my street and asking these people, who already have very little, to pay this extra charge seems very unfair, people struggle to pay the rent as it is, it’s high enough already. I intend to contest this charge as long as possible because I think it is wrong.”

Fellow Orbit tenant, Brian West, from Alcester, said: “When they’ve been around to clean our steps it’s actually dirtier when they leave, they do a terrible job. We clean the communal areas ourselves now. They’re adding this service charge but our pensions aren’t going up.

“I would rather go to prison then pay this charge when it’s introduced next year.”

Orbit argue that the charge is fair as tenants who have been asked to pay it have actually been receiving grounds maintenance services for a number of years, they just have not been paying for them up to this point.

Tristan Hopper, service charge operations manager at Orbit, said: “We have recently reviewed our service charges and this has highlighted a number of estates that have been receiving grounds maintenance services, but where customers have not been paying a service charge when they should have been.

“This includes customers who may not have communal areas directly attached to their properties, but are still part of the overall estate. We will start charging for these services so that we can pay our contractors to continue to maintain these communities to a high standard.”

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